Time and Date: Saturday, March 2 @ 2:00 p.m. ET
Location: The Pavilion (Villanova)
Records: Butler (15-13) | Villanova (21-8)
Rankings: Butler (#54 NET) | Villanova (#27 NET)
TV Channel: FOX
Watch Online: FOX Sports GO
The Butler Bulldogs travel to the Pavilion on Saturday where they will face the Villanova Wildcats. Butler is fresh off of a devastating home loss to Providence, while Villanova is coming off a big victory over Marquette. Butler is playing for survival at this point, while Nova is still holding out hope for a regular season conference championship, The dynamic should be interesting on Saturday.
Villanova is a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and is playing now for a shot at a fifth regular season BIG EAST championship in the last six years. The Wildcats are also hoping to secure homecourt advantage in the BIG EAST Tournament and improve their seeding for March Madness. Many of these aspirations seemed to have escaped Nova after a shocking defeat at the hands of Xavier to begin the week, but the win against Marquette brought the Wildcats back into the mix.
Butler’s hopes for an at-large bid may be all but dashed after the loss to Providence. Even a three-game winning streak to close out the year might not be enough to get the Bulldogs in. The only hope for them now is a conference tournament victory—a key component in that would be avoiding a Wednesday night game by finishing in the top six in the standings. A loss to Villanova would most likely condemn the Dawgs to the BIG EAST cellar.
In the last match-up between these teams, Butler stayed with Nova for most of the game. The first half was essentially even, but the Wildcats pulled away in the second half behind a red-hot shooting stretch by Collin Gillespie. The Bulldogs also had no answer for Eric Paschall, who led all scorers with 23 points.
Butler has been one of the more successful BIG EAST teams against Nova in recent years, and looks to get at least one win over the Wildcats for the third straight year. However, Nova has won the last three meetings between the two teams going back to last season. The Bulldogs, coming off a crushing defeat and a season full of road woes, will have to play inspired ball to compete in this one.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Contain Paschall
As evidenced by the close contest last time, Butler actually matches up pretty well with Villanova. One component of Villanova’s two-headed monster is Phil Booth, a small guard. Between Aaron Thompson and Kamar Baldwin, the Bulldogs defend guards as well as anybody in the conference. The trouble last time was Eric Paschall. Paschall continually found himself open and knocked down a bunch of jumpers. Butler needs to keep Paschall under 20 points to have a chance in this one.
Villanova: Bury the Bulldogs early
As discussed above, Butler will likely come into this one still reeling from Tuesday’s loss. The Pavilion is never an easy place to play, but especially at a time when the Bulldogs may struggle to find motivation. Villanova, meanwhile, will be riding a wave of momentum from Wednesday’s victory. If the Wildcats can get off to a hot start and get the crowd involved, they could put LaVall Jordan’s squad away early.